State Department of Corrections seeking bids for prison beds
Written by MATT GOURAS | Great Falls Tribune | January 25th, 2012
HELENA — The Montana Department of Corrections said Tuesday it is seeking bids for a new 120-bed medium security prison to help deal with an increasing number of prisoners, particularly among those needing special care.
The agency said it is looking for a contractor to house the inmates at either a new or existing building. The Legislature last year authorized about $3 million to develop the facility.
Three private Montana prison operators and three local governments previously expressed interest in providing the beds, including the vacant 464-bed Two Rivers Authority prison in Hardin.
The Department of Corrections said it wants more prison space for inmates needing assisted living help, more specialized resources for very young adult inmates and more beds for general medium security inmates.
The state says it hopes to award the 30-year contract by late April.
In a 74-page bid request, the state said its prison population is expected to increase 2 percent a year, or about 150 inmates during the next three years.
The agency said it has more aging and other inmates with serious, chronic medical conditions difficult to deal with in a traditional prison. The bid request calls for the contractor to provide assisted living facility-type care for at least 20 such inmates.
It has also identified growth in offenders under 25 years old who are “more immature, impulsive and resistant to authority than older inmates and, therefore, have proven themselves more likely to exhibit greater behavioral problems when incarcerated.” The bid calls for at least 20 beds and special services targeting the needs of this group, along with up to 80 general population beds.
“While we have been successful in slowing the growth in the prison population through creation of effective community alternatives, the fact is that the need for prison beds continues to slowly increase,” corrections director Mike Ferriter said in a statement. “The department has long understood that addressing the individualized needs of offenders is the most productive way to prepare them for successful re-entry to their communities, and this project is part of that approach.”
Butte-Silver Bow said late last year it may have beds available, as did Broadwater and Gallatin counties.
The three private-prison operators who said they may be interested in supplying the room for additional prisoners include the Two Rivers Authority of Hardin, Community, Counseling and Corrections Services Inc, and Corrections Corp. of America, which already runs the Shelby prison.
The Hardin facility has in the past sparred with the Department of Corrections for failing to give it any inmates to house. With no inmate contracts despite years of aggressive marketing of the jail, the $27 million economic development project has turned into a black eye for rural Hardin.
Jeffrey McDowell, the executive director of the Two Rivers Authority, said the local agency will review the state’s latest request and intends to respond.